CARTHAGE, Ill. — Sandwich boards around the Carthage square offer food for thought for healthy living.
How much water do you drink daily? How many hours do you sleep a night?
Count down healthy habits daily from 10,000 steps a day to one session of exercise.
A new Hancock County effort just might be the key to good health. Keep Encouraging Yourself, or KEY, launched Saturday to encourage healthy lifestyles to reduce chronic disease among residents and embrace physical, social and mental wellness through screenings, education and experiences.
“We want to get individuals engaged and aware that making healthy lifestyle changes doesn’t have to be huge. You don’t have to do anything drastic,” said Ashlyn Housewright, a KEY committee member and Memorial Hospital’s executive director of community health and wellness. “You can start to pick up more fruits and vegetables at the store, take advantage of the farmers market.”
The committee behind KEY came together prior to COVID-19, but with several members working in health care and health-related businesses, all were impacted by the pandemic.
“It’s taken a while to get off the ground,” Housewright said. “We are finally moving ahead to take small steps to improve the health of Hancock County.”
Goals include implementing healthy KEY codes at restaurants, sharing links to healthy recipes, tips and ideas for additional movement and improving the infrastructure for safe cycling and walking in Hancock County communities.
“Life is busy, and we all need extra support and encouragement, especially if it is something we are trying to build on and make a part of our daily routine,” said Melita Finney, community health director at the Hancock County Health Department and a KEY committee member.
Initial inspiration came in 2019 when information presented by the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network about a New Ulm, Minn., community health initiative project intrigued Memorial Hospital CEO Ada Bair.
Bair wanted to see a similar effort — on a smaller scale — in Hancock County, which led to a planning committee representing Carthage Veterinary Services and Professional Swine Management, Hancock County Health Department, Area Health Education Center, Memorial Hospital, Memorial Hospital Foundation, MORE Medical Supplies, Carthage Parks and Recreation and the Carthage Elementary School District.
Plans call for “just letting people know the resources that are available right here in Hancock County,” Housewright said. “Some individuals don’t even know the number of parks we have, so providing them with resources of where parks are located (is important) so they can get outside with their kids as a family and take advantage of our parks or things the park districts are doing.”
The park district, for example, just implemented a kayak launching pad last week and soon hopes to have kayaks for rent.
The committee wants to create action teams involving community members and target health-related issues such as nutrition and restaurants or safe routes to school.
“There needs to be more people involved to make this a success,” Housewright said. “We hope it’s something that lives on.”